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Project Case Study

The business of ending poverty

Achieving economic growth for the poorest in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world, has spent a decade and a half recovering from a devastating civil war, hampered by an Ebola outbreak that ended in 2015.

Developing the private sector presents an opportunity to improve the prospects of poor people. ASI has contributed through a project that has exceeded all of its targets for raising incomes of Sierra Leoneans.

SOBA was a private sector development programme that used a market systems approach to facilitate pro-poor economic growth in Sierra Leone.

The project has brought revenues and opportunities by changing the way of doing business in Sierra Leone in sectors such as agriculture, renewable energy, food processing, light manufacturing and entrepreneurship and professional services.

Project info

Sierra Leone Opportunities for Business Action (SOBA)


  • 2013 - 2017



SOBA worked with businesses selling agro-inputs to shift their focus to smallholders and introduce new and better seed varieties to diversify agricultural produce. With access to high-quality inputs and information, smallholders are more productive, yields are higher, and they earn more income.

SOBA also transformed the solar sector with technical assistance to help businesses to grow and to attract investment and new entrants. Now there are many thriving businesses selling affordable solar products to low-income households, sustainably providing access to energy.

Part of the project was to foster entrepreneurship ecosystems in the country and build markets for professional services. The programme is an excellent example of how an innovative approach in a challenging context can transform markets and the lives of poor women and men.

Our business partners in Sierra Leone will ensure growth continues well into the future, because part of the goal was to build their capacity to catalyse growth in their markets.

SOBA exceeded all of its targets. The agricultural input market has been transformed with the private sector now thriving by targeting smallholders as customers.



  • Sales of solar home systems grew at one of the highest rates globally.
  • Through the project, over 105,000 poor women and men now have access to new income-earning opportunities, such as access to high yielding seeds, or energy saving technology.
  • Nearly 47,000 poor people have seen their income increase by 10%.
  • The project leveraged £4.6 million of private sector investment.

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